Explore GPU Bottleneck [Diagnose, Recover, and Prevent]

Written By Farhan Max

Have you ever been in the middle of an intensive battle, and your game freezes? Things become more frustrating when you just need one more hit to win, but FPS drops below the playable limit.

GPU bottleneck is the main culprit for these hazards.

But what is a GPU bottleneck, why does it happen, and how to solve it?gpu-bottleneck

Follow this post until the end to get all your answers and tips to avoid bottlenecks in the future.

You can read to know about can Motherboard Bottleneck GPU.

What is a GPU Bottleneck?

GPU bottleneck is like putting a plane engine in a car and trying to drive it narrow sideways. If you do that, your car will use the jet engine’s fuel but won’t give you the required horsepower. You get a GPU bottleneck when you combine a high-end processor with a weak graphics card.

In GPU bottleneck, the CPU can easily process your game and frame data faster than your graphics card can render. That results in 100% graphics card usage while your CPU is at 60 or 65% tops.

Your CPU is mainly responsible for any game’s physics, AI handling, game logic, and network data, and the graphics card handles the visuals. So when your CPU is waiting idly for the framerate delivery from the graphics card, your card is struggling.gpu-bottleneck

Note: You won’t face visual stuttering for a GPU bottleneck, but the frame rate will drop much higher. Because visual stuttering mainly happens for CPU bottlenecks.

There are some core differences between CPU and graphics card bottlenecks. My additional article on CPU vs GPU bottleneck will give you a clear idea about the symptom differences between these two.

But the question remains…

Is a Bottlenecking GPU Bad for Your PC?

The answer is yes. GPU bottleneck is bad for gaming or any other graphics-intensive work because the choke point of your graphics card is not so widespread. So your CPU occasionally becomes ideal, and your GPU usage stays 90-100%.gpu-bottleneck-cpu

You get unusual symptoms if your weak processor bottlenecks your high-end graphics card. When you look through those symptoms, you will see whether the processor or the graphics card is bottlenecking.

But bottlenecking isn’t the only cause of GPU high use. If you play graphics intensive at higher resolution, like 4k or 2k with a 240hz refresh rate, even the top-end graphics card will go to 100% sometimes.

Also, unlike the CPU bottleneck, the GPU bottleneck depends on the PC games you are running.

For example, you may not face a GPU bottleneck for the Battlefield 1 game. But the graphics card bottleneck may occur in the same configuration when you play the Witcher 3 next-gen update or Cyberpunk 2077.gpu-vs-cpu-intencive-game

The battlefield games or Cities: skylines are mainly processor intensive, but Witcher 3, Cyberpunk 2077, or AC Valhalla require more GPU performance.

What Causes Graphics Card Bottleneck on Your Computer?

Usually, a graphics card bottleneck happens when your GPU cannot keep up with the central processing unit. People believe a slow graphics unit bottlenecks your processor, but that’s not all.  The bottleneck also depends on the game or apps you run.

For example, if you increase the Game resolution or the graphics settings of Witcher 3 wild hunt, the GPU utilization will fluctuate, and the FPS will drop.

Let’s check out FPS & GPU usage differences for different resolutions in Witcher 3: Wild Hunt:

ParticularsLow SettingsMedium SettingsHigh SettingsUltra Settings
Average FPS70 to 8060 to 7050 to 6040 to 50
Minimum FPS50 to 6040 to 5030 to 4025 to 30
GPU Usage60-70%70-80%80-90%90-100%

For this test, I’ve used an Intel i5 10300H CPU with Nvidia G-force 1650 Ti 4GB and 16GB 3200Mhz DDR4 RAM.

You can see that I face a GPU bottleneck in Witcher 3 Wild Hunt playing at Ultra Settings with 4k resolution.

This section will show you the core reasons behind a bottlenecking GPU. Knowing them will help you understand the problem clearly.

These are some common causes of a GPU bottleneck issue:

Hardware Limitations

If your GPU isn’t powerful enough to keep up with your processor, you will face bottleneck issues. Combining an entry-level GPU with a high-end central processing unit usually creates a GPU bottleneck.

For example, Once I paired a 3090Ti with my Intel Core i3-10300 and played Cyberpunk 2077, I got only 85 FPS at 1080P ultra settings.cyberpunk-2077-fps

But when I paired the same GPU with my i9-13900K, the frame rates were 143+.

Follow our guide to fix Motherboard not detecting GPU.

PCIe Issues

The PCIe BUS connects the graphics card to other components. If the motherboard’s PCIe interface is not fast enough to process the graphical data, even a faster GPU will work slower. You may face a graphics card bottleneck in your rig in that situation.

If you look at the Radeon RX 6400, you will know the severity of the PCIE issue. The RX 6400 card loses up to 14 percent of performance when you insert it in a PCIe 3 slot instead of a PCIe4.

Even during that time, many top-rated PC enthusiasts called it a shitty card without knowing the issue. And when this problem came to light, we all were shocked.

Power Requirements

Your graphics card won’t work at full speed if it doesn’t get the required power. The power mechanism of your graphics card limits your GPU usage at a certain point which causes a bottleneck issue.

Usually, this power-FPS ratio of the GPU mainly affects the laptop cards. And because of slight power limit differences, the same card will perform differently in games.

You will see the difference clearly if you compare the Lenovo Legion 5i gaming laptop with the Acer Nitro 5.

Here is the spec comparison between the Lenovo Legion 5i and Acer Nitro 5:

Lenovo Legion 5iAcer Nitro 5
CPU: Intel i5 11400H

GPU: Nvidia RTX 3060 115-140 W

RAM: 16GB DDR4 3200
CPU: Intel i5 11400H

GPU: Nvidia RTX 3060 85-95 W

RAM: 16GB DDR4 3200

As you can see both models have the same CPU and GPU, but the TGP is different. But you see a clear difference when you play the same game using the same setting.

I’ve tasted some games using similar settings on these two machines.

See the results yourself:fps-comparison

As you can see, the power limit has a huge impact on your gaming experience as well as on bottlenecking your components.

Go through our epic guide about how to check if GPU is working properly?

Driver Issue

If the graphics driver is outdated or unconfigured, it can cause performance issues and lead to a GPU bottleneck.

Ensure all your PC components are compatible to avoid a graphics card bottleneck. Additionally, updated graphics card drivers will improve performance and prevent bottlenecking.

But if the bottleneck remains, you should upgrade your graphics processing unit.

How to Check GPU Bottleneck on A PC

You can easily check your PC’s bottleneck status using the performance monitor. Your PC’s task manager has a built-in performance monitor you can use to check bottlenecks. But the application has no in-app or in-game overlay option.

So it is quite hard to monitor your hardware performance. And that is the reason people use third-party apps.

Luckily, your graphics software, like Nvidia Geforce experience and AMD Radeon software, has the overlay option. You can also use MSI Afterburner for this test.

Let’s know your GPU’s bottleneck status using the Nvidia Geforce experience.

  • Open any high-end game like COD MW2, RDR2, or Assassin’s creed Valhalla.
  • Press the ALT+Z key to open the Geforce experience in-game overlay.
  • Select the Performance option from the menu.geforce-experience-performance
  • Play the game for some time and note the GPU and CPU utilization.

You have a GPU bottleneck if your GPU percentage goes above 95% while your CPU usage is under 70%. When you get a reverse result, you have a CPU bottleneck.

However, sometimes on 60% GPU usage, you may face GPU bottleneck issues like FPS drops. That time you need to look for the power usage ratio. Because your GPU isn’t getting sufficient power.

The steps are also similar for AMD Radeon Software. Press the ALT+R key (by default) instead of ALT+ Z to open the in-game overlay.

But make sure to choose a game that utilizes both the processor and the graphics card equally.

How to Fix GPU Bottlenecking Issue on Your PC

You can easily solve your GPU bottleneck by overclocking your graphics card or playing the game in lower settings. But you should buy a new graphics card to enjoy your 4k experience besides avoiding the bottleneck. Also, keeping the heat at bay will remove bottlenecks to some extent.

Here, I will give tips for fixing your PC’s graphics card bottleneck issues. Let’s see.

These are some ways to fix the GPU Bottlenecking issue:

  • Lower Game graphics: You should lower the game resolution when you face a GPU bottleneck in some specific game. Because low graphics settings or running your game in wounded resolution puts less pressure on your graphics card and reduces bottlenecks.
  • Overclock: Overclocking a GPU will increase your GPU capabilities. And this extended power will help it to adjust to your processor.
  • Update PSU and Cooling system: Heat is another enemy of GPU performance. Most modern GPUs have a throttling feature. This feature stops limiting your graphics card at a certain percentage if your PC doesn’t have enough power or a proper cooling system. Upgrading them will solve your issues.
  • Closing background apps: Graphics-intensive background applications like screen recording, Twitch, or youtube live also cause GPU bottlenecks. So close these background applications to avoid GPU bottlenecks.
  • Upgrade GPU: If you can’t solve your PC’s graphical bottleneck using the above DIY solution, upgrade your GPU.

After applying the solutions, your PC’s graphical bottleneck problem will disappear.

How to AVOID Bottlenecks During Your Gaming PC Build

When building a new gaming PC, balancing your components is necessary to prevent bottlenecks. So when you carefully choose all of your parts and learn about their benchmarks, compatibility score, & user review, bottlenecks won’t be an issue.

However, not everyone has enough time to do so. But worry not; various sites like CPU Agent and PC-builds calculate the bottleneck online. You will get satisfactory results with real-time data.

Personally, I’ve tested the PC-builds bottleneck calculator while buying a new GPU for my Ryzen 5 5600G. And I still use this CPU-GPU combination for my 1080P gaming.best-cpu-gpu-combination-1080p-gaming

You should remember that the CPU and GPU aren’t the only responsible components for the Bottleneck issue. Insufficient RAM and slow storage can cause your PC bottlenecks.

It’s a general thumb rule that you need at least 16 gigabytes of RAM for anything up to an Nvidia 3060Ti graphics card, and for 3070 or above, I recommend you to get 32 gigs.

Currently, no game or software requires 64GB RAM, but you should consider installing them when you buy a 3090Ti card.

Also, make sure to have sufficient cooling and enough power to run your PC optimally. Then you won’t ever face bottleneck issues.


Is 100% GPU usage a bottleneck?

100% GPU usage may indicate a graphics bottleneck if your CPU usage is under 50%. But if your processor percentage is also high, your PC isn’t bottlenecking.

Does the bottleneck cause FPS drop?

Yes, both CPU and GPU bottleneck causes FPS loss. But the frame rate will drop much higher in the Graphics Card bottleneck.

Will bottlenecks ruin my PC?

No. You won’t face any immediate hardware damage for the PC bottleneck. But you can’t enjoy your game because of this issue. Also, continuous high uses decrease the component shelf-life.


GPU bottleneck occurs when your PC limits your processor performance for a weak graphics processing unit (GPU). It usually happens during graphics-intensive work, parallel computing, or gaming with high graphics settings.

To overcome a GPU bottleneck, you can either upgrade the GPU or close the graphics-intensive background application.

After reading this post, I’m sure you have all the important knowledge regarding GPU bottlenecks. Comment if you have any other questions regarding GPU. Peace!

About The Author
Farhan Max is a tech geek with a particular interest in computer hardware. He's been fascinated by gaming since childhood and is now completing his undergraduate studies while researching and testing the latest tech innovations. Alongside his love for all things geeky, Farhan is also a skilled photographer.

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